Whilst many other lotteries worldwide had to put their draws on hold during the Covid-19 lockdown period, Ithuba continued to conduct draws during the entire period.
This is thanks in part to the leadership of the National Lottery operator’s CEO, Charmaine Mabuza.
Charmaine speaks to Drum about her career after being announced Businesswoman of the Year at the annual Premier Black Business Quarterly Awards (BBQ Awards) on Friday, 24 March 2023.
Businesswoman of the Year is not an achievement she can claim solely as her own, the group CEO of Ithuba demurs.
“It is also owed to the fantastic team that I work with daily, who continuously put in their best efforts to ensure that Ithuba is the best operator of the National Lottery since being awarded the licence in June 2015."
The Empangeni-born and bred business leader was raised by her mother, a single parent who taught her everything she needed to know about being resourceful.
“My mother is my mentor and she successfully managed to spearhead her business without help and resources such as those available today,” Charmaine tells Drum.
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“I always look at young entrepreneurs and realise that they’re very fortunate that in today’s business world, there are so many resources and systems in place to help them succeed. None of these was available during my mother’s time, therefore, she will always be my hero in terms of business acumen. She instilled in me the values of hard work, self-reliance, confidence, and consistency, which helped shape my vision and drive to succeed despite societal barriers.”
Before Charmaine made a name for herself in the gaming sector, she was director of Wiphold, which on 24 March 1999, became the first women-owned company to list on the JSE.
A decade later, she and her husband, Advocate Eric Mabuza, founded Zamani Holdings, which launched Ithuba, the operator that in 2015 won the lucrative licence to run the SA National Lottery following lengthy courtroom battles.
“My love for the gaming sector stems from the notion of changing people's lives through our life-changing jackpots,” she tells Drum.
“These have proven to make a difference in the lives of our jackpot winners since 2015. Our players have goals to win the National Lottery jackpot in the hope to fulfil their dreams. The gaming sector plays a huge role in giving back to previously disadvantaged communities.
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“The ethos of giving back to communities is something that I am very passionate about,” she adds, “and can be seen through the different independent CSI programs Ithuba has implemented, such as donating food parcels, building houses in Mpumalanga in 2018 for staff, and them for families that suffered in the KZN flooding last year and other natural disasters. Ithuba donated over 15 homes in KwaZulu Natal, North West, Gauteng, and Mpumalanga.
“In gaming, we create multi-millionaires, but we also ascribe to the values of Ubuntu through being responsible corporate citizens. Our mandate as an operator is to contribute a percentage of our sales towards the NLDF which the National Lotteries Commission uses towards good causes.”
Charmaine has received many accoladdes for her work, but the latest accomplishment cements her place as a leader in an area closest to her heart: philanthropy.
“My philanthropy work as part of Ithuba involves establishing the Ithuba Bursary, which provides financial assistance for students who want to study in the fields of Marketing, Information Technology, and Commerce. We cover their tuition, accommodation, travel costs, a monthly stipend, and coaching, and mentorship for their studies. To date, the foundation has supported the education of doctors, chartered accountants, ICT specialists, and many more professionals.
“Other programs that we have initiated include the Supplier Enterprise Development program (SED), whereby Ithuba funded 82 SMEs to boost their businesses. The funding program was initiated to alleviate the impact of Covid-19.
“We also established the Female Retailer Development, which was designed to empower women. Ithuba identified over 100 female retailers to train and upskill to improve their business skills.”
According to Charmaine, Ithuba has been a game-changer by “transforming a traditional retailer-dominated business model with fixed terminals in-store, into a digitally driven organisation by implementing an integrated solution across multiple platforms”.
The group CEO says, “Ithuba has introduced more games than any other operator in South Africa. DAILY LOTTO was introduced in 2019 by Ithuba and now accounts for over 11% of overall sales. Ithuba has also spearheaded locally relevant games such as Lobola Cash, Fafi Fortune, and Morabaraba under the EAZiWIN instant game portfolio.”
“Ithuba has managed to break records in lottery jackpots, with the highest jackpot ever in Africa reaching R232 million in 2019.”
“Ithuba is recognized by the World Lotteries Association as a certified Level 2 for responsible gaming. Being certified by the World Lottery Association (WLA) for Level 2 is a significant achievement for any lottery operator, Level 2 certification is awarded to lottery operators who have demonstrated a high level of excellence in their operations and meet the WLA's stringent standards for responsible gaming, security, and integrity.”